Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) is bleeding inside or around the ventricles in the brain. The ventricles are the spaces in the brain that contain the cerebral spinal fluid. Bleeding in the brain can put pressure on the nerve cells and damage them. Severe damage to cells can lead to brain injury.
IVH is most common in premature babies. There are 4 grades of IVH, depending on the amount of bleeding. They are:
It is not clear why IVH occurs. Bleeding can occur because blood vessels in a premature baby’s brain are very fragile and break easily. Nearly all IVH occurs within the first few days of life.
Certain babies are more likely to have IVH. They include:
The following are the most common symptoms of IVH:
The symptoms of IVH may look like other health problems. Make sure your baby sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your baby’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history and do a physical exam. Your baby will also need a head ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to make a picture of internal structures. The provider can see the inside of the baby’s brain through the fontanelles. With the ultrasound, the amount of bleeding can be graded.
There is no specific treatment for IVH, except to treat any other health problems that may make the condition worse. Your baby may also need supportive care, such as fluids and oxygen.
Sometimes your baby may need surgery to stabilize his or her condition. This may involve surgery to place a tube (shunt) into the baby’s skull to drain the fluid. But this surgery is rarely needed in babies because their skulls are very flexible.
Complications are more likely to occur if a baby has grade 3 or 4 IVH. They may include:
Although care of sick and premature babies has advanced greatly, it is not possible to prevent IVH from occurring. But if you are at risk for early delivery, your healthcare provider may give you corticosteroid medicines. This has been shown to lower the risk for IVH in the baby. These steroids are often given to women between 24 and 34 weeks during pregnancy if they are at risk for early delivery.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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